A new Kasilof business has sprung from the demand for sauces at the former Mana Kalani restaurant in Soldotna.
Kim Hamilton, who with husband Richard has opened Mana Kalani Sauces, said she started hand-canning her Jung tempura sauce for a Sterling Elementary School teacher.
"I couldn't keep up with it," she said. "I thought, 'If he wants it, surely other people do.'"
Canning sauces was an all-day process, and it interfered with cooking for the restaurant, she said.
Meanwhile, the restaurant, which operated in 1996, was not all the couple had hoped for.
"So, I thought, 'We'd better go into sauces,'" she said.
Kim and Richard Hamilton of Kasilof have hired Beaveton Foods in Beaverton, Ore., to produce their new line of sauces.
Photo by Doug Loshbaugh
The Hamiltons closed the restaurant in 1998 and spent two years planning the sauce business. Now, they have hired Beaverton Foods in Beaverton, Ore., to produce six sauces for dipping, barbecuing, basting and marinating. Peterkin Distributors in Kenai is distributing their products.
Richard said they had lots of help from Mark Gregory, director of the Small Business Development Center at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District.
"Mark Gregory helped us work through an initial business plan, pricing and cost-accounting," he said. "And he gave us a tremendous amount of moral support. It's not like I was a business major in college. I'm a pipe-fitter."
Richard said he does the paper work, and Kim does the marketing.
"I spend a lot of my time on the computer updating our business plan as we get information," he said.
"It's the school of hard knocks for us, since we don't have a business background."
However, they do have sauces for sale at Jersey Subs in Soldotna, Twin City Oriental in Kenai and Coal Point Trading Co. in Homer. Their trial run at Beaverton Foods was about 150 cases.
Their next run will be 900 cases, about 150 cases of each of the six sauces.
Kim said she is just beginning to market their products in Anchorage.
She also is working with J.C. Wright Specialty Foods in Kent, Wash. She hopes to put Mana Kalani sauces on the shelves of major supermarkets. She is working with a labeling consultant in Portland, Ore., to come up with a six-pack package.
The Hamiltons' sauces grew from their need at the restaurant for dips and marinades.
"We weren't satisfied with what was on the market, so she started making her own," Richard said.
The result was a multi-cultural line.
The Kalbi sauce is Korean, her Katsu sauce is Japanese, and her Char Siu sauce is Chinese-American, said Kim, who is half Korean and learned to cook during a stay with friends on Maui.
"The Jung sauce is my own creation, because I needed a dipping sauce for tempura dishes," she said.
Richard said keeping afloat while they planned the new business has been a struggle.
What is the biggest lesson they have learned?
"To have faith," Kim said. "Hold on to your dream."
"It really is," Richard said. "It seems a lot of the time like there's no reason we ever got this far."
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